The trademark and the website Olores.org belongs to Mr. Carlos Nietzsche Diaz Jiménez, who employs some other people to help him with different aspects of the website. In the picture below you see Cyntia Izquierdo, who has been a very active part of the olores.org team for a few years already. Olores.org was started in 2003 by Carlos who continues to serve as the principal author in many articles published on olores.org each year. A common misconception is that olores.org has a whole team of writers and significant resources like other publications, but that`s not unfortunately the case, we are just two: Cyntia and Carlos.
Olores.org pretends to present the existing methods measuring odours, although Olfactometry will deserve a special attention.
The aim of Olores.org is to boost discussion with professionals comming from all fields and to structure all the proposals to demand to the authorities a regulation and control of the odour pollution.
What are Odours?
Odours are defined (1) as the resulting sensation of the reception on a stimulus by the olfactory sensory system. The way the human respond to an odours stimulus depends on the sensory properties of them in particular, Odour Concentration, Intensity, Quality and Hedonic Tone. The combined effect of these properties is related with the degree of annoyance that an odour can cause.
Following the European UNE EN 13725 Norm, Odour Concentration is 'the number of European odour units in a cubic metre of gas at standard conditions'. Therefore the odour concentration is measured in 'European Odour Units' and its symbol is uoE (note that the 'E' is a subindex).
In short, Odour Units works for 'odours' as Decybels for 'noise'. In general, odour unit is calculated from the number of times that a gas sample has to be diluted in order to be detected by a percentage of 50% of a group of people adequately trained for this purpose (pannel).
A simple example will show us how to calculate the odour concentration. Supposed that we have taken a bag with odours from some place. If we dilute this sample 1000000 times with odourless air (or nitrogen), it is probable that when the diluted sample is presented to a group of, let's say six people, none of them will detect the odour. If we dilute step by step the 'odorous sample' with a smaller concentration of odourless air, there will be a point when half of the people will say that the do detect the odour, and the other half will say that they don't. In this way, if the sample has been diluted 30 times in this time, it is concluded that the odour concentration of the original sample was 30 Odour Units.
The measured values depend, of course, on the kind of sensory test, the selection of the panel, the criteria of detectability and other factors.
In fact, Odour concentration does not inform about how strong is an odour perceived. In contrast, odour intensity does bring information about the degree of annoyance of an odour, that is, odour intensity express the strenth of the odour sensation.
Let´s suppose using another example that we could measure a sample of odour collected from the vicinity of a restaurant. If we got a concentration of, let's say 10 ouE. ¿Does this mean that the annoyance perceived by the neighbours is 10 times higher than when there is no restaurant?
The answer is NO.
Unfortunately, the 'Concentration' magnitude is not lineal and depends on many factors. An odour can remain undetected above a certain concentration, its composition may have alterations, its hedonic tone could change from an 'annoying odour' at low concentration, to a 'pleasant odour' at higher concentration (or the opposite), or it could be perceived with the same degree of annoyance with 2 ouE or with 15 ouE.
Odour intensity is the strength of the perceived odour sensation and in many cases It is related with the concentration of an odorous substance. The following equation could define the relation between Odour intensity (I) and concentration (C). “K” is a constant and “n” is the exponent.
This is known as Stevens' law or the power law. For odours, n ranges from about 0.2 to 0.8, depending on the odorant.
For an odorant with n equal to 0.2, a 10-fold reduction in concentration decreases the perceived intensity by a factor of only 1.6; whereas for an odorant with n equal to 0.8, a 10-fold reduction in concentration lowers the perceived intensity by a factor of 6.3.
The dependence can also be described as a theoretically derived logarithmic function according to Weber and Fechner (2):
where C0 is the threshold concentration; and kw is the Weber-Fechner coefficient or Weber ratio.
Which one of these 3 equations applies depends on the method used. To this date, no theory has been able to derive the psychophysical relationship from knowledge about the absolute odour threshold of various substances.
When immissions are tested on site, odour intensity is determined by means of an odour inspection. Determination by means of olfactometry is performed under the same conditions like those of the odour threshold determination. The method is well described in the VDI Guidelines 3881 sheet 1-4 and 3882 sheet 1. (4)
The following table illustrates the different levels of intensity that can be registered in a field inspection.
Odour quality or character is that property that identifies an odour and differentiates it from another odour of equal intensity. Basically this parameter provides information about what the substance smells like.
The odour character is described by a method known as multidimensional scaling or profiling. In this method, the odour is characterised by either the degree of its similarity to a set of reference odours or the degree to which it matches a scale of various descriptor terms. The result is an odour profile.
Odour Hedonic Tone
Hedonic tone is a property of an odour related to its pleasantness.
When the hedonic tone of an odour is evaluated in the neutral context of an olfactometric presentation, the panellist is exposed to a controlled stimulus in terms of intensity and duration. The degree of pleasantness or unpleasantness is determined by each panellist experience and emotional associations (3).
A distinction has to be made between the acceptability and the hedonic tone of an odour. When an odour is evaluated in the laboratory for its hedonic tone in the neutral context of an olfactometric presentation, the panellist is exposed to a controlled stimulus in terms of intensity and duration. The degree of pleasantness or unpleasantness is determined by each panellist's experience and emotional associations.